ChiloquinNews article 8/15/2011
But would I be without them? Never. As I spent hours picking raspberries this week I had plenty of time to ponder all the work involved with growing and harvesting these delectable treats.
All the information available on raspberries would have you believe that they must have excellent drainage and a sunny spot, but after growing them for 25 years I’ve discovered that may not all be true. In Tahoe, I had no sunny spots so I grew them in the shade of Jeffrey Pine trees and they flourished. I had very fast draining soil there so I dug out a bed, lined it with plastic, poked a few holes in the bottom for drainage, and watered every day. The raspberries loved it!
Where I live in Chiloquin I have much more sun than shade, so now most of my raspberries are in the sun, and they are very happy with that too. The soil here is alkaline instead of acid, but that appears to make not one iota of difference. They are still in a plastic-lined bed. In fact, my latest plantings are in an old pickup bed liner that I drilled a few holes in for drainage and sunk into the ground. They get totally waterlogged in winter, and are thriving. The pickup bed was my attempt to rein them in, as they do love to run, but they have already escaped through the gate end.
The chores come with picking and pruning. It takes a long time to pick raspberries and all the while the bushes grab at you, the earwigs and ants run over your hands, and your arms get tired from reaching up. If you have the bushes covered with bird netting, then tangling in the netting gets very frustrating. One tip – don’t wear a shirt with tiny buttons on the sleeves….
I usually wait until spring to prune but it can also be done in fall. If you wait until all the leaves have fallen it’s much easier to see what you are doing. All the canes that have fruited need to be cut down to the ground. They die after fruiting and if they are not cut out, you will end up with a thicket of dead and live canes all mixed up together. The new canes should be topped back to a height where you will be able to reach the berries to pick them, and must be done before the new leaves break bud in the spring. Pruning is a bit different if you have everbearing varieties. In this case the canes bear in fall in the first year, and in summer the second year, so you need to be sure that those you are cutting to the ground are actually second year canes that have fruited twice. It’s likely that here in Chiloquin you will never get the fall crop. It takes a long time to cut down all those canes, and even though many raspberries are supposedly thornless, don’t try it with bare hands!
This year I foiled the birds by covering my patch with bird netting, only to find that other marauders were out to get them. Earwigs like to suck out the juice and leave a cluster of dry seeds. Raspberries are made up of a cluster of drupelets, each one a small fruit in itself and I was intrigued to see a line of ants leaving the bushes each clutching a drupelet in its jaws. There are various other insects roaming the bushes and I’m convinced that one of these must be responsible for that slight ‘off’ after-taste that sometimes results from popping berries straight from bush to mouth. Not a problem after they are turned into jam.